Wednesday, 27 June 2012

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 38

I've previously posted the Trainspotting posters as Iconic Images of the 1990s... This week's track from NOW! 38 is the PF Project featuring Ewan McGregor's monologue from the film's opening - this is an extended version and features the unedited text:

And, because I like to spoil you, here is the opening scene from the film - complete with John Menzies and the bit where Princes Street miraculously turns into Lothian Street:


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Stuck in the Middle? On Being a Liberal

I'm sure every Lib Dem has heard it - the accusation that we just sit on the fence, that we don't have opinions of our own. I'm sure, too, that they've heard about how we pander to the left of right depending on who we're challenging - or depending on the political persuasion of the source of the accusation, of course!

Such is the way of British politics, ingrained in the old notions of left and right; of Socialism against Capitalism, of Public and State versus Private Enterprise, of Collective Redistribution versus Individual Accumulation.

Even as the differences between the two main parties have become less and less distinct over the years, so they play on their old values and vices in their portrayals of each other. And of course, there are still many differences of character and approach between the two parties - even if the end results are often similar.

As these differences are emphasised and caricatured, as a centre party we are vilified and taunted for being neither one thing nor another - or for being a pale imitation of either Labour or Conservatives or both. Charges we have often found it difficult to refute - charges which have sometimes been accepted for our own political purposes.

Part of this, of course, is down to the media's (almost) wholesale buy-in to the old two-party system of the 1900's. Part too, is (or has been) a problem with limited airtime to communicate our defining principles.

So here we are, clowns to the right of us, jokers to the left. Stuck between the Idealists on the Labour benches and the Ideologues on the Tory benches. Stuck in the middle with - well, with what? What do we offer, if not what the media would have the public believe?

I doubt that many Liberal Democrats would have much of a problem in defining what Liberalism meant to them - and I believe that those things identified as being key would be shared by those across the party. While there may be a contrast in approach between the Economically Liberal and Social Democratic "wings" of the party, the aim of a Liberal Society is what unites us.

But what of this Liberal Society and how does it differ from what the other parties offer? What is at the heart of Liberalism - how can we define our place in "centre ground" of British Politics?

Actually - that's the wrong question. We may be stuck in the middle in terms of the traditional view of left and right - but we aren't (or shouldn't) in terms of where we differ from the approaches of Thatcher-Blair-Cameron. The Liberal ground is not natural Labour or Conservative territory but where is it?

Well, a good place to start is with some definitions of Liberal. Here are a few, first, from Wikipedia:
Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis)[1] is a political ideology or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.[2] Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights and the free exercise of religion.

Difficult to disagree with that, you'd have thought, but Liberal Democrats have long sought constitutional reform, including a written constitution. Liberal Democrats have stood up for Human Rights and defended the Human Rights Act from the Tory Axe. Liberal Democrats are at the forefront of efforts to broaden the definition and application of liberty and equality whether it be in axing ID cards, moving ahead with equal Civil Marriage or ending the detention of the children of asylum seekers.

Next up, a definition from


[lib-er-uhl, lib-ruhl] Show IPA
favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs.
( often initial capital letter ) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform.
of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism.
favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.
favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers.
All of the above would no doubt form part of the definitions of the Liberalism of most, if not all Liberal Democrats - but it is the areas of 4 and 5 that we can make a difference in Government and mark out ground away from the Authoritarian tendencies of Labour and Tory alike.

A final definition, this time's definition of Liberalism:


[lib-er-uh-liz-uhm, lib-ruh-] Show IPA
the quality or state of being liberal, as in behavior or attitude.
a political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.
( sometimes initial capital letter ) the principles and practices of a liberal party in politics.
a movement in modern Protestantism that emphasizes freedom from tradition and authority, the adjustment of religious beliefs to scientific conceptions, and the development of spiritual capacities.
Liberalism, to me, is pragmatic, socially conscious, economically literate, expansive in ambition, realistic in implementation. It is about being open-minded and adaptable, accepting of the evidence of actions and willing to change as circumstances dictate. It is about a philosophy not a dogma, a way of thinking through issues and proposing solutions not applying old remedies to new problems.

We need to, collectively, communicate these values as well as policies. Explain why we believe in certain courses of action, not just that we believe in them. At the next election the two main parties will again turn to the tit-for-tat, yah-boo politics of left v. right and, once again, seek to squeeze us out of the debate. We need to ensure we take unashamed ownership of the Liberal ground.

I've said before that I don't believe the next election is a foregone conclusion as far as the Liberal Democrats are concerned but neither will it be easy. If we are reduced in numbers (and don't hold the balance of power in the new Parliament, whichever way that has fallen), then it could present the opportunity to (re)build with a much greater emphasis on the Liberal values that underpin our party and it's policies.

There is a Liberal constituency in the country which is ignored by the press and poorly catered to by conventional politics. There is a Liberal constituency which may not even self-define as such but which shares our values. There is a Liberal constituency - we need to connect with it, engage with it and empower it - and we need to start sooner rather than later.


The Gay Cure

I've been meaning to post this for a while but am a bit worried about the population explosion that could potentially result from Gay Men the world over being turned straight. Thankfully, the video is just as likely to turn Straight Woman gay, so equilibrium should be restored. Still, if you're a gay man who doesn't want cured, do look away now...


Monday, 25 June 2012

K25 Part 6 - Sydney Mardi Gras

And here, in short order, is the second of the two posts I promised you in my last post.

I've never really got "Pride" - I lose lots of points off my PinkCard for that. Personally, I'd rather get on with my life rather than shout about my Sexuality. And whilst I appreciate that there are still issues of Equality to fight for, I'm really not sure Pride Marches are the best way to go about this - although I will concede this may not have always been the case and may not be the case elsewhere.

I also have problems with the concept of Pride in something you can't change - I can no more choose to be gay than I can being White. And I wouldn't go on a White Pride march either.

Anyway, that's all beside the point, because this lady could probably get me to go to Pride, not withstanding all I've said above! Here is Kylie with a 20 minute set which is a whistlestop medley tour of her Greatest Hits and some fan favourites!



Simon's Cat in "Window Pain"

You know what it's like.. you wait ages on a new post from your favourite blogger... and then two turn up at once. And now, it's even happening with me!

First of two posts tonight - the latest Simon's Cat:


Saturday, 23 June 2012

An Educational Post...

I am acutely conscious that normal service has been lacking lately, and I will seek to rectify this in coming days. Meanwhile, here's a You Tube video I came across which teaches an essential life skill. Don't say this blog isn't educational....


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 37

Regular readers will know I love Texas, and I could have chosen Halo as my track from NOW! 37 but I've opted instead to go with the Fun Lovin' Criminals and Scooby Snacks. To be honest, I'm not sure if I really liked this song either then or now; but the chorus is ridiculously catchy and does sample one of the best lines from Pulp Fiction.


Thursday, 14 June 2012

(K)Nights in White Satin

Yesterday I blogged a review of Tim Burton's Dark Shadows. One of the things I omitted to mention (mainly because it was getting quite long enough without it) was the great soundtrack. The film was set in 1972 and the soundtrack drew on a number of the acts from that era: Elton John, The New Seekers, The Carpenters, Barry White and T Rex.

The title sequence features The Moody Blues with Nights in White Satin. This came as a bit of a surprise to me as I have spent, at a guess, 30 years thinking this was Knights in White Satin. Isn't it funny how childhood mistakes get ingrained in one's consciousness?

Anyway, here are The Moody Blues with a live version of the song:


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Review - Dark Shadows

Picture the scene:

Johnny Depp has popped round to Tim Burton's Hampstead flat for dinner, followed (one imagines) by Cognac and Cigars in the Billiard Room. Mrs Burton, otherwise known as Helena Bonham Carter, has popped over from her flat next door to join the proceedings.

Between courses conversation turns from Ms Bonham Carter's recent OSCAR nomination for her turn as HRH Queen Elizabeth in The King's Speech to future projects. I've had this idea, says Tim... As the meal progresses, the idea grows and develops - Depp is employed as the lead actor and has volunteered himself as Producer, Bonham Carter has agreed to a supporting role (as long as it isn't too weird, one doesn't want to be typecast as oneself!) and Burton has put in a call to Danny Elfman asking for a score.

Dark Shadows is, in other words, a very typical Tim Burton film. As such it has had a marmite effect on audiences and critics. Unlike the salty spread, however, I very much liked the film - although it is far from perfect or Burton's best.

I must confess to not knowing much about the film prior to my cinema visit, having only read the briefest of synopsis. It is based on a 1960's TV soap-opera which is described as "Gothic" although the introduction of supernatural elements only arose after some months and the central character of the film arrived after a year.

That character is vampire Barnabus Collins. 200 years after being confined to a chained coffin by a spurned lover who had killed his parents and his True Love, he is unexpectedly set free by construction workers. Returning to his family home, he finds that his descendants have fallen upon hard times and the family fishing and canning business is being pushed out of town by Angelbay, presided over by Angie; a beautiful ambitious blonde it would do well not to cross.

Barnabus resolves to resurrect the fortunes of the family, drawing on resources hidden in the family vaults and the support of the modern family's matriarch, Elizabeth. The Dark Shadows that have blighted generations of Collins' are, however, never far away...

The look of the film recreates in live action something akin to Burton's animations, in particular Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Indeed, in places one is almost transported to those worlds rather than the Eastern Seaboard of the States in 1972.

This setting of a vampire story - and Barnabus is very much a vampire in the Hammer Horror mould - in the recent past is part of the film's appeal. Whilst Burton can play around with the Gothic imagery of the Collins' house and it's inhabitants, the town and other scenes can be portrayed in a (slightly) more naturalistic way.

The setting also gives the film it's main conceit - the merging of a Comedy of Manners (How to woo the woman with the best child-bearing hips?) with a gothic horror story of vampires, werewolves, curses and witches. For the record, it turns out that the best way to woo said female is to hold a "happening" with Alice Cooper as the entertainment.

Depp gives an understated performance as Barnabus Collins, with just the right level of camp and none of the excess of Captain Jack Sparrow. Bonham Carter also turns the histrionics down a notches in her role as Psychiatrist Dr Hoffman.

Eva Green has gained, rightly, great plaudits for her playing of Angie - a character which is given great scope to develop through the film. For me, though, Michelle Pfeiffer was a revelation as Elizabeth Collins. I'm not sure the last time I saw her in a film but she has matured into an actress with dignity and gravitas.

Bella Heathcote is also good as Victoria Winters (governess to the son of Johnny Lee Miller's character, Roger Collins) and bearing a startling resemblance to the "young" Barnabus' True Love. There is also a welcome cameo from another Burton regular, Sir Christopher Lee in a sit-down role befitting of his 90 years.

Unusually for a Burton film, there is no central theme of repression by and liberation from a Father figure. Indeed Jonny Lee Miller's weak father (the antithesis of, say, Christopher Lee's Dr Wilbur Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) seems to be there to make up the numbers and gender balance initially before being hastily shown the door around 2/3rds of the way through. It was a superfluous and unnecessary role and one of the flaws of the film.

Instead of themes of paternal discipline and neglect, the film's central themes are love, revenge and the extent to which they feed off each other in a mutually symbiotic relationship. Somewhat predictably, it will all end badly - the only question is how much collateral damage will be sustained by others. 

The film has a number of laugh out loud moments even if it is lacking in substance. But substance isn't everything and sometimes one just wants to be entertained. To check one's brains in at the door and be subsumed into another world. It seems to me that there are worse places to be than the world of Tim Burton's mind - and films with more substance I'd enjoy much less.


NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 36

Now! 36 could have served up a few tracks but the only real competion for the chosen track was The Divine Comedy's Everybody Knows (Except You). In the end, though, Placebo beat all comers with Nancy Boy. Enjoy:


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sunday Sounds 48 feat. Gratuitous Male Nudity

So, I've now moved and have internet back - and a "den" specifically for reading and interneting. The house is tidy, although there are some loose ends to tie up, and the housewarming is out of the way. There is, therefore, no excuse for me not to get back to regular blogging.

I have some ideas for more meaty blogs to come - along with, of course, all the regular features - but for now, here's a Sunday Sound  - Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger:

And if the semi-naked Adam Levine in the video has whetted your appetite, here's a bit more of the man himself:


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

NOW! That's What I Call A Tune! 35

Whenever I look at old compilation albums, I always find there are a handful of songs which are just crying out to be played. "Remember this?"I'll say, to anyone within earshot, "Whatever happened to...?"

It is these tracks that, for the most part, I'm featuring in this series. NOW! 35 had three main contenders: Deep Blue Something's "Breakfast at Tiffany's", Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy" and this, Babybird's "You're Gorgeous":


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Sunday Sounds 47: Jubilee Special

After yesterday's bit of mischief making, today's music choices are genuinely linked to the Jubilee as well as being pieces I love.

First up, Handel's Coronation Anthem, Zadok The Priest, which has been played at British Coronations since 1727. Turn it up loud - it's the only way to listen to it!

Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 was one of the pieces played after the service:

Finally, the National Anthem with the Gordon Jacob fanfare used at the coronation itself...


Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Voice UK Final

Regular readers will know I've been enjoying The Voice UK - and up until last week I hadn't thought any of the decisions (on the live shows at least) as to who should leave each week were drastically wrong.

Last week in the semi-final, though, the public voted and that changed. My favourite contestant and tip to win the show was voted off. It was an unbelievable result as her competition in Sir Tom Jones' team was (imho) nowhere near as gifted.

This was my initial reaction:

Fellow Lib Dem blogger Jennie was a little more forthright, in her own inimitable style. Sir Thomas Jones Woodward KBE was also stunned (livid?), when the result was announced - he also pledged to everything he could to support Ruth in her career.

If you're settling down to watch the final - do enjoy. But be aware of what you're missing:


60 Glorious Years

So today is the 59th Anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II*. Here, therefore, is a rendition of God Save The Queen. Please be upstanding:


*As she is commonly known...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Bristol Photos: A Ronseal Post

This post does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides you with Photos. Of Bristol.

Sunset, Victoria Park

Sunset, Victoria Park

Sunset, Victoria Park

Public Art - detail

Cabot Tower